Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hurrah! I made it to Ushuaia, presumably the most southern city in the world and over 3000 km away from Buenos Aires!
So how did I get here? Monday I made another attempt to leave Puerto Madryn and got picked up by Sergio. He was on his way to Rawson, was willing to drop me of at Trelew (atlas!) and managed to cover the 100km distance in about 45 minutes, averaging a speed of about 130 km/h. Yes, average, so you know how fast we went... In Trelew I got picked up by Angel and his truck, which was maybe not only the oldest one in Argentina, but almost surely the slowest. At Sergio´s speed I would have reach the next town, Comodoro Rivadavia (get that atlas out!), in about 2 hours, but Angel, his truck and therefor also me took about 8 hours! This in a truck which wasn´t really a comfortable place to be, there was for example no passenger seat, so I used my backpack for this purpose. It was already evening and getting dark when I got out of the truck and had little hopes of getting any further that day, but I tried anyway. To my surprise I got picked up by Miguel and his brandnew Mercedes truck, complete with passenger seat and a reasonable speed. Miguel intented to drive until he got tired and then get some sleep and he asked me where I preferred to sleep, if he had to drop me off at some hotel (not that there were (m)any...). I told him I would sleep in my tent, next to his truck, but then he proposed I would sleep in his truck, on top off the load he carried. So I spend the night sleeping on about 40 tons of potatoes, unions and very comfortably on top: cornflakes. I can tell you now that a few 10 kg bags of cornflakes make an excellent bed! The next day we continue to the town of Rio Gallegos, already quite near "the end of the world" and we arrived there at about 3 pm, so I had high hopes. These were shattered quite quick as I met another hitchhiker who had been waiting for 2 hours without any luck. In total I spend about 6 hours and I was very close to giving up (but you know what they say: "Never give up!!!"), when truck nr. 276 (give and take a few...) picked me up and the driver, Guillermo, delighted me with the news that he not only went straight to Ushuaia, but had no intention to sleep. After some further thought however, this started to worry me a bit, especially after he told me that he hadn´t slept the 2 previous nights either! Finally fate decided differently, because when we came to the ferry in Chile, which would carry us across the Mallaghan Straight (I told you to get that atlas!!!), we missed it by 1 minute and were told it was the last one that day and the next one would go at 6 in the morning. Disappointed we put our alarm at 5.30 am and fell asleep side by side in the cabin (Guillermo refused my offer to put up my tent). Suddenly I was woken up roughly as Guillermo shouted that we had to go ("Vamos, vamos!"). I wasn´t sure what was happening, but I followed his orders anyway and then it appeared that the ferry had decided to make another run and my driver was trying desperately to get aboard. So after 1 hour sleep we continued the journey all through the night and during this time I couldn´t keep myself from falling asleep and was woken time and time again by a joking Guillermo, who was telling me I was a worthless companion (yes, I confess...). But once the sun came up, the tables turned and my driver started to fall asleep between my desperate attempts to wake him up before we plunged down the highway, which was by now tightly hugging the mountains around Ushuaia. Then I proposed we should prepare some "mate", a highly popular sort of tea-like drink, which has about the same effect as coffee. Knowing that not many Argentineans would refuse to drink mate, this proved to be my life-saving move. We shared mate, my driver woke up, we finish the remaining km´s until Ushuaia and I am still alive, writing this story for you to read. All is well that ends well! I still fear for the life of Guillermo, who was telling me that he will immediately start his return trip of 3 days, after he received his new cargo and had still no intention of sleeping anywhere during this journey. The other truck drivers had similar behaviour and it all came down to making enough money to survive. Poor Angel had to drive from Argentina´s northern most province, Missiones, until almost reaching the second-most southern province, Santa Cruz, (a journey of almost 4500 km´s) and with his slow truck the whole roundtrip took 7 full days. Regularly he had to make 3 of these trips, without any days off (so he would be driving over 20 days in a row), before having 1 day off, seeing his family only 2 times, just for one night. Yes, life is hard in Argentina if you are not lucky enough to be one of the few rich people, or a foreigner ;-)
But I am a foreigner, so I am just trying to have fun and see this beautiful country. The last few days the views were a bit boring, with a landscape that basically consisted of 20 cm high bushes until the horizon, on all sides. Only 1 hour before arriving to Ushuaia the landscape changed into "amazing" and I couldn´t stop making pictures. This because I was surrounded by the ultimate parts of the Andes mountain range, which I intend to follow on my way up through Argentina, after I have visited Ushuaia. Now I am going to enjoy being in this amazing landscape, so I wish you all good luck and see you next time!


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